It’s been a good but long couple of weeks at the farm we leave today. We arrived at the homestead a bit weary and hardened by our experience at the previous farm we were staying at. Having left our apprenticeship much earlier than expected really upset some goals and plans. But I suppose that’s the way this all works now doesn’t it. The surprises that come with changes in plans and paths is really what keeps this little life interesting and meaningful anyway. Right?
So we came to the tiny goat farm looking for a moment to reconfigure goals, plans, ideas. We came to struggle through simultaneous existential crises. That part wasn’t planned.
These past weeks have been filled with mostly monotonous chores. Get up, feed animals, fetch hay, milk animals, clean up after animals, label yogurt containers, package cheese, dump outhouse bucket in compost. Wait for evening chores. These days are filled with the unexpected learning that comes from simple observation. By spending hours around animals everyday, you begin to learn their quirks, their habits, their sweetness. You walk into a barn to wonder why a tiny baby goat is wet. You realize this tiny baby goat was just born and the mother needed no help, this goat is wet because it was just born. And it is standing alive and well. You watch young goats play with other young goats on the barn deck, running and jumping sideways as if nobody is watching. You watch a chicken nestle into a bucket of wood chips, unassuming that no human will find her precious eggs here. You listen to a young goat cry for three days after being separated from her mom. After all this and I find myself wondering how long I can keep searching for bigger answers and am trying to remember what my initial questions and intentions were at the beginning of these travels.
When at the feed/coal/stove store the other day picking up grain, the sweet old man in full beard and overalls proceeded to remark on my “back to reality” comment that came blurting out of my mouth. “This is reality.” Sure, sweet old man with long white beard in overalls, this is reality but what’s next that will fulfill my need to learn, to have space, to feel my place in the world? How can I make a living doing something I love that pays my bills, that allows me to have a lifestyle I love. I don’t think this is unachievable but I’m picky and am not willing to settle. So for now, I continue on this little walkabout, this soul-search, this vision quest as some have assumed our trip to be. For a little while longer, I’ll continue to sleep in simple cabins and cook in other people’s kitchens though I long for my own. I will continue to give this time the just chance.
And for now, a few gems from the past weeks. There really are slightly sacred moments and smack in the face realizations that come during daily questions of what the hell am I doing in the northeastern most corner of the states smacking mosquitos and shoveling goat shit.
- I don’t ever want to “disbud” goats. There is great debate around this topic but If this means not having goats in my life, fine. I don’t want to hot iron through their fur and skin to expose skull in order to remove future horns. Horns do get stuck and can be dangerous but also regulate temperature and are beautiful and it’s really, really sad to see baby goats with holes on top of their heads.
- Cats will stay off of your milking table if you religiously give them a little taste after each milking.
- Chickens will crap directly into your fresh water bucket no matter where you place it.
- I don’t want to be so busy that I don’t have time to cook for myself or take care of myself.
- It’s okay to be introverted.
- I can devour books again.
- I really like it when older folks call me “dear” with a strong accent.
- Maine seems to really love the 90’s. Music, fashion and balsamic vinegar.
- People really do come together in small communities to take care of each other. I witnessed this in my own small town that I grew up in. In Maine I’ve heard stories of people coming together to rebuild a barn that burned down, I’ve partaken in a weekly free lunch, grant provided simply to bring people together to socialize, to be community.
So today, to Augusta Maine to stay with an old co-worker I haven’t seen in a decade. A little last trip to Portland, Maine, “the other Portland.” And then on towards the next farm. Goodbye Maine, hello New Hampshire. May you be kind and a teacher to us.